0When one examines artifacts of videogame culture from the 1970s and early 80s, a few distinct typographic patterns emerge. One of the most unique and striking patterns appears in the images shown in figures 2-1, 2-2 and 2-3. The distinctively blocky forms of the letters in these and many other game-related logotypes helped give videogames a distinct visual culture. The mostly rectilinear forms of the letters and the inclusions of extraneous rectangular slabs1 create a sense of technological intrusion, but the ancestor of these designs — a font known as E-13B, developed for use in Magnetic Ink Character Recognition (MICR) — makes even more explicit the connections between human and machines as textual agents.
0Two key developments in automating computer input led to the creation of fonts which continue to exert an influence over videogame typography. The core technologies of Optical Character Recognition (OCR) and Magnetic Ink Character Recognition (MICR) began taking shape in the 1930s, but the typographic identities unique to each technology emerged in the 1950s as they each saw broader application in information management (Schantz 7). Although the fonts used for OCR and MICR were designed to solve specific technological problems, they also found expanded uses within and in reference to videogames, as well as science fiction more generally, through the 1970s.2 Just as alphanumeric character designs employed in videogames can later reference their origins in videogames by exaggerating the constraints of their digital origins, so too did fonts designed for OCR and MICR develop an association with technology that depended on repurposing or exaggerating the awkward intrusions of technological necessity for aesthetic devices. In this way, although it would be years before a videogame could render a font as complex as those based on MICR, MICR-based fonts began appearing on videogame consoles and arcade cabinets almost as soon as they became viable commercial products. Studying these fonts and the route by way of which technology for machine-reading came to develop an association with videogameplay reveals the technological discourse embedded within videogame images. Furthermore, contemporary fonts designed in the late-90s and early 00s which resemble MICR fonts bear descriptive tags such as âretro,â or âfuturistic,â thus underscoring the discursive referentiality of the type design. One popular example of this, Time Machineâ¢ by Lloyd Springer, closely resembles Moore Computer — a typeface designed in the late 60s in order to mimic E-13B — and is tagged with keywords like âdata,â âocr,â âretro,â âcoding,â âfuturistic,â and âavant garde.â In this way, Time Machine, employs technique of pastiche to exaggerate explicitly the associations already implicit in its forebearer.